Cutting Baby Fingernails

How to Trim Baby's Nails With Ease

Trimming Baby Nails

Jonathan Fitch /

When I first became a mom, I was pretty nervous about how to trim my baby's fingernails. Terrified that I would cut them too short or nip the skin, I often didn't cut the nails short enough. Though nearly paper thin, those fingernails could be likened to that of a cat at times. After sustaining a few superficial "wounds," I learned that keeping her nails short was better for everyone in the long run. Here are some fingernail trimming tips that I found to work for me.

Gather Nail Trimming Tools

First things first, gather your baby manicure set. There are several different tools from which to choose.

Your basic fingernail clippers in miniature size are one of the most popular choices for trimming baby's nails.

Some even come with extended handles to improve your grip. You can also find nail trimming scissors and baby nail files too. Find out which style you are most comfortable with. (See my picks of best nail clippers for babies.)

I would also recommend that if your baby fingernail trimming tools don't already come in a handy kit, that you find a place to store them. Whether you make or purchase a small cosmetic bag or toss your tools down in a Ziploc bag, having the baby manicure set together can cut down on those minor frustrations in life.

Cut Nails When Baby Is Distracted

When it comes time to cut his fingernails, you want to choose the time wisely. I found that nail trimming sessions went exceedingly and abundantly better if I cut them while my baby was either asleep or busy feeding. If your baby is feeding, you will likely need to call upon some assistance (particularly if you are a breastfeeding mom). Also, keep in mind that fingernails are easiest to trim after a warm bath.

Use Good Hygiene When Cutting Baby Fingernails

I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard the suggestion to completely forgo baby nail clippers and just "chew" or "bite" off your baby's nails instead. Can I just say, um, gross. Fingernail biting is just a bad habit all the way around. Germs are all through your own mouth (not to mention your baby's fingers). Plus you will get a very raggedy edge along your baby's fingernail. Please do stick with using proper (and clean!) nail trimming tools. Save the nail-biting for suspense movies.

Learn How to Trim Nails

So you have all that in place, how do you actually go about trimming your baby's nails. Here's the nuts and bolts of it:

  • Use a firm grip to hold on to your baby's hand so that he doesn't jerk it away at an inopportune moment.
  • Hold onto the finger between your thumb and index finger. Use your index finger to push the fleshy part of the finger pad down and away from the nail.
  • Clip a very slight arc along the fingernail's curve.

Be Prepared for Any Accidents

It isn't unheard of for the trim to cut a little too close, so keep a tissue at hand. If there is any bleeding, hold the tissue along the cut for a few minutes or until the bleeding stops.

Don't Forget the Piggy Toes!

Finally, do not forget that your baby's toenails may need trimming. Generally speaking, toenails do not grow nearly as fast as fingernails. You may not need to cut toenails as often. Follow the same guidelines for trimming toenails, though keep in mind toenails should be cut straight across without any rounding or tapering at the corners. This will help in preventing ingrown toenails.

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